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November 22, 2020

Psalm 47

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  The Lord most high is awesome! He is the great King over all the earth! He reigns over the nations. All the shields, or rulers, of the earth belong to Him!

  Is that how you feel about God right now? I know you are thinking that’s the way you should feel, but do you? Or are you wondering if God really is the great King over all the earth? If he is really ruling all things, why are we in the midst of a pandemic? Why is there so much division and crime and hatred in the world? It’s easy to identify with the unbeliever or atheist who says, “if there really is a God and he really is almighty, the great king over all the earth, why isn’t he doing something about all our problems? It seems that either he doesn’t exist at all, or he really isn’t the great King over all the earth.”

  It’s good for us to be reminded that the world’s problems, our problems, are not God’s fault. He points that out through Ezekiel. He gave humans good pasture, but what did they do? They have trampled the good pasture; they have muddied the waters. They have shoved and butted the weak ones away. They have only been interested in themselves. They have been willing to get what they want by any means necessary, regardless of who they hurt, or what God says. The sinful nature we inherit from Adam and Eve is 100% self-focused. We are the cause; sin is the cause of all our problems, not God.

  What God could have done, should have done, is left us to ourselves to shove and butt each other until we completely destroyed each other. But what did he do? He decided to step in. He decided to raise up a Good Shepherd, his servant David, who would seek the lost, bind up the injured, strengthen the weak, and destroy the fat and the strong; who would shepherd with perfect justice.

  What had the Psalmist seen that made him rejoice and call upon all people to shout, to declare the praises of God loudly to all?

  He chose Jacob, the descendants Abraham as his people. He chose them, not because they deserved it. They certainly deserved the opposite. He chose them in love, in faithfulness to his promise.

  The descendants of Jacob witnessed that the Lord, the one true God is King of all the earth. They witnessed his awesome power, as did Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They witnessed ten miraculous plagues. They witnessed the dividing of the Red Sea. They witnessed manna in the desert and water from a rock. They witnessed the walls of Jericho crumbling at the sound of the ram’s horn. The examples could go on and on.

  In spite of their constant grumbling, disobedience, and lack of trust; in spite of our constant grumbling, disobedience, and lack of trust; God steps in to save us from ourselves. He steps in to rescue us from the punishment we deserve. He steps in to bind us up when we are weak. He stepped into this world we messed up in order to take our place, pay for our sins, and lead us through this life to the rich, perfect pastures of heaven.

  But when he came to his own to be their Good Shepherd, and his own did not receive him. Didn’t you think when you heard our Gospel reading for Christ the King Sunday that it was a strange choice for the Sunday on which we celebrate that Christ is King? They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, took the staff and hit him repeatedly on his head. After they had mocked him they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

  This is the King of all the earth? This is the Lord Most High? This is the one who reigns as king over all the nations? How can that be? He sure doesn’t look like a king. He looks like a criminal. He looks like he has been defeated in battle. It looks like the kings of the earth, the Jewish leaders, Pontius Pilate, and Herod are the ones who are the victorious kings ruling over him. But Psalm 2 tells us that the one who is seated in the heaven laughs. He says, “I have installed my King on Zion.” Psalm 47 reminds us, God has ascended with a joyful shout. The Lord goes up with the sound of the ram’s horn.

  Yes, Jesus, the Lord, the Good Shepherd, was crucified beneath a sarcastic sign that said, “here’s the king of the Jews.” Yes, Jesus died and was buried. Yes, the Jewish leaders must have thought that they had won; they had gotten rid of a false teacher. Yes, maybe even the demons were celebrating on Friday night and Saturday. But on Sunday morning the earth shook. An angel appeared. He rolled the very large stone away from the tomb. He frightened hardened soldiers almost to death. The angel proclaimed what had happened. Jesus is no longer dead. His body is not here. It is not in the tomb because he has risen just as he said he would.

  When some people hear the words , God has ascended with a joyful shout, some picture that the Psalmist is thinking about the Ark of the Covenant, the representation of the throne of God, being carried into the Jordan so that the water was stopped up and the people could cross into the Promised Land on dry ground. They think of the priests carrying the Ark around Jericho and the walls falling down when the people shouted and blew the ram’s horns. They think of the ark being brought into Jerusalem with music and singing and trumpet blasts as David danced with joy before the Lord.

   But we can’t help but think of Jesus’ Ascension. No, the disciples didn’t shout or blow a ram’s horn as they watched Jesus bodily ascend back to heaven. But as we think of what John saw in Revelation, there were certainly joyful shouts in heaven. As the Lamb that looked like it had been slain but was alive comes forward to open the seals on the scroll, he is announced as the Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David who alone can open the seals of the scroll because he has triumphed. As he comes forward, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders bowed down before the Lamb. They sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain and you bought us for God with your blood out of ever tribe and language and people and nation.

  God is the King of all the earth. God reigns as king over all the nations. He is greatly exalted. All things have been put under Jesus’ feet and he is actively governing everything, the pandemic, the election, the social unrest—He is governing all of it in a way that serves his eternal purpose, and the eternal good of all those who trust in him. He is doing the same thing that he did with the evil plans of the Jewish leaders, Herod, and Pilate. He laughs at the evil plans of man because he is the Lord Most High, he is awesome. No one, not even Satan and all his demons, are able to keep him from carrying out his plan for our salvation.

  Finally, the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has done away with every other ruler and every other authority, all the shields of the earth, even death. And when he comes again, this time descending in the clouds, there will be a loud shout of joy that rises from us and from all who await his appearing. There will be the blast of trumpets. The defeat of death will be evident. Every dead body will be raised and everyone who has ever lived will see him. Even those who pierced him, even those who refused to believe that he ever lived, or that he rose from the dead—Every knee will bow before him and acknowledge him to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, willingly or not.

  Make music for God! Make music! Make music for our King! Make music. Make music for him with a wise song. Make music with a song that proclaims the truth– what is not so obvious now but will be obvious to all on the last day. All the troubles of life are the result of sin and rebellion against God. God cannot be blamed for any of our troubles. But don’t doubt that he is still in charge, that he is the great King over all that exists. The greatest proof of this fact is that, instead of giving us the punishment we deserve he has given our punishment to the only one who didn’t deserve it, Jesus. He has governed the events of history so that his promise to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David, to all humans, was fulfilled just as he said. He continues to govern the events of history so that his promises of things yet to come will also be fulfilled just as he said. When Jesus comes again with the clouds of heaven as his throne, no one will have to tell us to sing a loud song and make music for our God. Nothing will be able to keep us from joining the choirs of heaven in singing: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing. To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever. AMEN!